Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Parking begone

Ok…. No time to really comment on the latest twist in the parking asset sale/lease/other proposal out there. This one is to have the parking authority’s assets not be privatized, but instead be turned over to the pension . Certainly the political forces at hand would love this whole idea, as would the pension board itself. People know what I think of the transparency of the pension board as it is. The more important question is whether Pennsylvania law pertaining to pensions would allow parking assets to be counted toward its liability is a big unanswered question IMHO.

Quite honestly, is there any reason to go to all these machinations?  If there is a goal to keep the parking assets in the public domain, yet monetize the value of the assets to fund the pension system then there is a far more simple answer.. Is there any reason they can’t do effectively like the water authority did. If the parking assets generate a valuable revenue stream then they could be used to float a revenue bond and then have the proceeds sent over to the city to then go to into the pension fund. Be clear, I’m not advocating that, but is that not a far more simple path to the same exact point as the latest proposal.  It is doing exactly what this latest plan is proposing with a lot less hassle and a lot less confusing lines of authority between the pension board/parking authority and the city. On top of that there would be no need to worry about vague asset valuations and legal issues that I think would get in the way of this anyway.

And someone sent over some magic wonk dust to land on Potter at the city paper. First today he was counting census blocks, but then expounds on this new parking proposal.

What might be worth noting, is that talk of selling pension assets is apparently infectious. Down in Cinci last week there was a whole story on an idea being floated to sell their parking assets in order to fund their public pension mess. Just note that their pension problems are nowhere near as bad as ours, but that is another story.   They also have mentioned selling a rail line publicly owned down there. Any spare rail lines around here? We must own something else that is fungible around here.  What I find interesting down in Cincinnati is that one little article on just the idea being floated has 69 comments as I type. Is there any place in town here where the ‘debate’ over the much more concrete plan to sell parking assets is similarly debated publicly. We generate a few comments from the wonkerati in town here… but nothing like that type of public participation.


Blogger EdHeath said...

Does the City get income from the Parking Authority too (in addition to the Parking Authority covering their own expenses and making payment on their own debt)?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:27:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

yes. less this year becasue they subtracted their costs to the folks planning the asset sale directly from what they mailed over to the city county building.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 1:30:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Could be wrong here ... would "floating a revenue bond" under the current regime of governance and operation actually generate sufficient revenue for our needs, pressed for time and room to maneuver as Pittsburgh is? I thought part of the idea about privatizing garages and meters was it made the garages and meters more profitable.

At least by handing them over to the unions I mean the pensions board, we'd be making clear who and what to blame for the new price gouging I mean taking advantage of market forces.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 2:15:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I'd rather hand them over to the pension board than lease them and give the money to the pension board. I can see what would happen if they get the money.

They're short short by hundreds of millions. They could chase a high return and lose it all. It's harder to lose a parking garage.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 3:23:00 PM  
Blogger BOD said...

If the Pension (Union) Board were in charge of the parking garages, would the employees receive adequate training in safe snow shoveling techniques?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 6:10:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Yes, and if you make donations to the right candidates, you can be the contractor for the training. Just be sure to create a company called something like Ergonomic Cyro-Precipitation Consultants so it looks a bit more plausible in the budget.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010 7:44:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

for Bram mostly.. Is there some big savings from privatization? I don't doubt in a lot of cases there are, but the parking operation here is pretty straightforward. There is not any big savings to be expected in and of itself from privatization of the lots or the meters. if there any such savings at the margin, they can't be big enough to impact the bigger issues here.

but what I think you are getting at.. not quite sure.. is that the real value in the parking assets is really only there with a big jump in rates. Absent that the value issues are not enough to help out the pension much.

Now does it matter who 'owns' the assets when the rates are raised? See anser above. But what I think you really are getting at is just how folks are conflating different issues.. Should the lots be privatized? should the rates go up? Should the PPA continue to exist? and other issues along the way. If so then this really all becomes yet another uber-Pittsburghism where different issues are confused to the point where the public does not know what to debate.

I mean.. at the end of the day does any of this matter? If rates can be raised then the PPA can simply send over a bigger check to the city each year (and the city would collect more taxes I imagine as well) which would cover the new minimum municipal obligation that would be set if the state just does go ahead and take over the pension system here. The only objection that has been raised to that is that the city couldnt afford that level of contribution. But if that gets solved by higher rates, then why do any of this?

Is this another example of how we take a serious but straightforward problem and have it lead us down a convoluted path to land far from where we started with nobody sure of how it happened?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010 8:44:00 AM  
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